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May 19, 2008 02:49 PM

A Fan Ti - revisted

Just found out that A Fan Ti has finished their renovations. I've been wanting to go to this place for a long time after hearing all the raves on this board. I found out that this restaurant does not serve the cuisine of Xinjiang but the cusine of the Korean ethnic minority in China (there are 56 minority cultures in China, or maybe soon to be 57 as Jewish is being considered by the government). These people are generally in China near the border of Korea. I only learned this on my second visit, because the place seemed Korean but everyone spoke Mandarin. The male waiter is from Heilongjiang and he told us that this is Chinese Korean cuisine. I went for two visits just this weekend. The menu is all in Chinese and they didn't have an English menu. The waitress speaks a little English and she managed to recommend a bunch of dishes for us on my first visit. Sorry no English translation, but here is what I had:

1. Spicy Lamb dish (its #1 on the menu if that helps). I had many lamb cumin dishes and am pretty tired of them, but I must say this dish is their best and it definitely is one of the best dishes I had so far. Its like lamb with cumin with a ma la sauce on it with onions. Everyone kept picking that dish at my table and it gone before you can say ma la.

2. Spicy lamb soup. They bought out a small gas burning stove and served the soup in a casserole dish. The soup was musky and bland, but they bought out a red peppery sauce. After you mix that in the soup it really added a bunch and made the soup really good.

3. String beans - not exciting but need something to offset all those spicy dishes. They were really fresh and it was a large plate.

4. Lamb Skewers - they are like the ones you get at the cart down the street and they are also $1. I would of got more if I knew.

5. Lamb Omlette - This is scrambled eggs and they put chunks of lamb in it. Its served with a red ketchupy sauce on top. There were some egg shells and it kind of took some of the fun out of eating this dish.

6. Lamb Dumplings - These are good quality lamb dumplings. The spicy dishes can overpower this dish. I would recommend this dish if you had less spicier dishes like their bibimbop.

7.Bibimbop - The waitress bought this out by mistake when we ordered white rice. But I was happy she made the mistake. It was a good quality bibimbop.

8.Potato, Eggplant, and Peppers - The quality was fresh, but I didn't find this dish too exciting. This was ordered on my second visit when I needed a veggie to offset the spicyness.

If you order white rice at this place they give you a mix of crushed corn with it which adds a little flavor. They got a room in the back for larger parties and they seem to run a restaurant across the street that specializes in Cold Noodles and Tofu from what I got from the sign. I found this restaurant very interesting, as there is traditionaly no lamb eating cutlure in Korea and the taste was Chinese. Definitely will try this place again and the place across the street.

A Fan Ti
136-80 41st Avenue
Flushing, NY 11355

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  1. A Fan Ti at 136-08-41Av. I called just now a waitress said she has one copy of an english menu.Their old menu is on the bridge and tunnel club site.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wew

      That is good to hear. I asked for the English menu and the waitress said she didn't have one. I went this past Saturday.

    2. Thanks for the great review. I passed by it last week and was wondering what it was like. Do they still have the "exotic" dishes on the menu?

      25 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        I read this post in Dave's blog and was intrigued:

        "I'd revisit the lamb tongue (off-menu), spicy shredded lamb stomach ($7.95), and lamb testicle with hot pepper sauce ($11.95) — also known as kung pao lamb testicle, though our table dubbed this dish "nuts with nuts." Also shown, above and below: lamb eye in brown sauce ($12.95), lamb brain ($9.95), grilled lamb kidney ($1.50 per skewer), and grilled lamb testicle ($4.50 per skewer). "

        1. re: kobetobiko

          Thanks! I've never had testicles before but have always wanted to try it.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            I loved that dish.

            I wonder if the menu has changed. It was always owned by a Korean, and if he liked you he'd give you some kimchi. But I think a lot of the food was indeed recipes from Xinjiang and Sichuan.

            1. re: Brian S

              so they speak korean? interesting, i want to take my gf there bc her korean is much much better than my chinese on a relative basis, she can probably communicate better than i

              1. re: Lau

                I don't know but I think the owner might speak korean.

              2. re: Brian S

                The waiter told me they were dishes from the Chinese Korean minority different from Xinjiang and Sichuan. These people are still called Chinese but they are Korean. Just like I'm Chinese but called American.

                1. re: designerboy01

                  interesting, i was just curious b/c in LA there are some northern chinese places where the owners who are chinese or ethnically korean, but from china speak both languages (and in some cases the menu is in korean and chinese)...its also interesting b/c they serve all of the original versions of the "korean-chinese" dishes that u get at korean-chinese restaurants in any ktown (obviously just takes on northern dishes)

                  1. re: Lau

                    That's what makes this restaurant so different is that you normally don't see lamb in a Korean restaurant or in a Korean Chinese restaurant (Korean restaurant that cooks a Korean version of Chinese). These people have some history living in China and have integrated some Chinese techniques and ingredients to Korean recipies.

                    1. re: designerboy01

                      yeah i think you're right although i've seen goat and lamb casserole type things before although they're not that common

                      i think there is a goat or lamb korean specialist restaurant in ktown in LA...but on the whole i think ure right

                      that said i mean i dont think lamb is that common in chinese cuisine though thats probably not fair since its more common in northern chinese cuisine and saying "chinese food" is like classifying europe as all one cuisine

                      1. re: Lau

                        Goat and lamb aren't too common in Korean food, but I remember somebody on the board saying that you can get them in the Korean countryside.

                        btw, Lau, I call you and your girlfriend my doppelganger. I'm a Korean-American married to a Chinese-American who has your name. And my Korean is a lot better than his Chinese. : )

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          haha...u remind me that i need to hire a tutor

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            I've had goat jungol in San Francisco and more recently Elmhurst. Both versions were rich, ruddy and rustic, country-style as you suggest.

                            Nice option on these gray May days with temperatures in the 40s and 50s ;)

                            1. re: squid kun

                              what resto in elmhurst did you have the goat jungol?

                              1. re: liveloveat34

                                It was at 77-08 Woodside Ave. and was called Sam Soon Ri, but I'm seeing more of an online trail for a restaurant at that address called Yang Gi Chok. (I said "more recently" above, but it wasn't all that recent - around two years ago.)


                          2. re: Lau

                            Goat and lamb are common in Chinese food for many years. The only catch is that some Southern Chinese restaurants will serve you goat if you order lamb. Goat and lamb both use the same Chinese character for lamb. They will serve both in a Cantonese restaurant but you need to ask the waiter to clarify. I've been eating lamb since I was a kid and its known for centuries to the Chinese to be more nutrious than other common meats like pork and beef. The Cantonese will eat every animal except Panda Bears. Japan is another country that doesn't have a traditional lamb eating culture. You may find it in a restaurant or two but its not common.

                            1. re: designerboy01

                              well i agree cantonese people will eat just about anything, but i have to say that lamb/goat is far from common in cantonese cuisine

                              1. re: Lau

                                I can't agree with that. Its pretty common. You will find it in most Cantonese restaurants. Even those places that serve rice plates will give you goat like Yuen Yuen on Bayard Street in NY and that place has been around for more than 30 years. You can even go on Long Island to restaurants like Norther Manor and get lamb. My family has been eating it for generations. I ate it goat cooked with sugar cane (Yuen Yuen) and cooked with curry and onions(home cooked from an elder), lamb pan fried with ginger and onions (Congee Village), goat casserole (Cantoon Garden), there is also a version of lamb hotpot that my grandma use to make at home. I grew up eating lamb and its one of my favorite meats. Even if you go to that restaurant on Canal Street next to McDonalds you can get goat with your choice of veggie on a plate with rice for lunch. I also had a traditional lamb herbal soup at Jade Asian in Flushing during Dim Sum on Sunday pretty recently. If you are walking around shopping in Guangzhou you can even get some lamb jerky to snack on.

                                Just check the so called "second menu" next time, its usually there.

                                1. re: designerboy01

                                  i dont know, half my family is cantonese and i never ate lamb / goat growing up and my grandparents were pretty old school, they ate just about i said im not saying they don't eat it and a few dishes here or there makes sense, but i still dont think its a staple

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    My family is Cantonese and were decended from Shunde in Guangdong. Shunde is probably the place known for some of the best Cantonese food in the Province. China even got the Chef from there when Nixon came to visit. That place is a food crazed area and known for households competing against each other for cooking. The older the person is in my family the more food fanatic they are. Maybe my exposure has been a little different. I definitely am a novice compared to my elders.

              3. re: Miss Needle

                I have a secret desire (not anymore) to order those dishes. But I think I would be labeld as the "crazy man" if I ordered it. Too horrifying for the people I went with. Hard to find friends to eat with. I may have to solo.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  I have a secret desire (not anymore) to order those dishes. But I think I would be labeled as the "crazy man" if I ordered it. Too horrifying for the people I went with. Hard to find friends to eat with. I may have to solo. I'm not sure as the whole menu I got was written in Chinese and my eating is better than my reading and writing.

                  1. re: designerboy01

                    He he. If people think I'm some "crazy woman", so be it. Great. I'm going to have to deal with translations.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      I'm glad to hear that A Fan Ti has reopened. I'm equally glad that I saved my takeout menu from when they first opened. That's the menu that mis-translates half the dishes as "goat".

                      I know were the restaurant is so I've never looked at the sign on the door, but my menu lists the address as "136-80 41st Ave". that would make sense since the numbers should go up as you head east from Main St. In any case, it's just off the corner of Union St.

                      As for lamb in Korean restaurants, doesn't Kum Gang San serve a lamb casserole? iirc, it's something like "young yang tang."

                      1. re: el jefe

                        Not sure if Kum gang San has it (haven't been there in about a year), but they might. "Yang" means lamb in Korean. Woo Chon has several preparations of lamb on their menu -- a rarity in Korean restaurants.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          went by yesterday but it wasnt open yet but an employee showed me the menu, no english, no takeout menu ect... they open at 11am, iwas there at 10 to get a menu.

                          BTW- i had 2 of the best lamburgers yesterdat around noon. the buns were very soft and hot and the lamb was screaming hot in temp. usually i get them they are warm at best but delicious as usual. that and dan dan and i was stuffed till dinner

                2. I'd say the place has an identity crisis! A Fan Ti is named after a famous character in Xinjiang folklore, and every restaurant I've ever heard of named A Fan Ti (and there are are a lot) specializes in Xinjiang/Uighur food, like the many lamb dishes you mentioned. But bibimbap? Korean owners? That's like a restaurant named Don Quixote with German owners and Sauerbraten on the menu. Korea is a long way from Xinjiang, and has an almost negligible muslim population.

                  I sounds like a case of a Korean buying an established restaurant and adding a couple of Korean dishes for the home boys.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    I had lunch there today and got the impression that they were ethnic Koreans from China. Our waitress spoke Mandarin and Korean. Also, according to a previous poster, it sounds like it was always owned by Koreans.

                    1. re: blim8183

                      Yep, that is what I said in the original post. I asked them what cusine they served and they said it was from the Korean ethnic minority in China.

                    2. re: Xiao Yang

                      I lived in China and spent quite a bit of time in Xinjiang studying the Uighurs, and I must say that the food at (the old) A Fan Ti is definitely Uighur, with a few typical Chinese/Beijing dishes. I've eaten in Korean restaurants in China run by ethnic Koreans (up in Heilongjiang where most of them reside) and it's nothing like Uighur food. I know the A Fan Ti owners are Korean but most of the food is definitely Uighur!

                      1. re: yt28

                        I asked the waiter from both of their restaurants and they said it was food from their ethnic minority - Chaoxianzu. Heilongjiang is only one of the places where the Chaoxianzu live. Its not much compared to Yanbian in Jinlin Province where most of them live. I think I recall the waitress telling me that she is from Jinlin. When you talk to them they consider themselves Chinese.

                        1. re: designerboy01


                          looks like they're korean by descent, but they've probably been in china for a long time

                    3. I guess I have to cross off my reference to Uighur food being served here. Does that mean we have to go to Montreal for that cuisine?

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        don't cross it off. They fooled me, and they fooled Sietsema too:

                        So if the food is the same as the old menu, it's close enough to Uighur to satisfy me. Just as some really good Sichuan places are run by Taiwanese because that food is popular in Taipei.

                        Old menu:

                        1. re: Brian S

                          well the thing with taiwan though is that obviously most of what we refer to as "taiwanese" is actually just chinese who moved from the mainland to taiwan post 1949 and that would include people from sichuan and most other provinces, so hence taiwan became a melting pot for some awesome chinese food. there are real taiwanese people, but they are a small % of the population

                        2. re: Chandavkl

                          I just passed through Montreal, and Uyghur Restaurant is gone. Fortunately, my favorite Tibetan resto, Chez Gatse is still going.

                          Anyway, a restaurant named Afanti not serving Uighur food almost amounts to false advertising.


                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                            I went to the new, renovated A Fan Ti last night. Very, very disappointing. We were handed the new Chinese menu and the menu with English from Il Bok across the street. I knew to bring my old take-out menu with me. The waitress spoke enough English to understand "pork", "beef", "lamb", and to explain that the price on the old take-out menu is different. Unfortunately, she didn't understand "cumin" when I tried to order the Lamb with Cumin, referenced by Designerboy. I tried pointing to the top item on 3 of the 4 pages of the all Chinese menu, but she said none were lamb. If it was the $18 dish on the 4th page, I wasn't interested.

                            We ordered our two favorite dishes off the old menu. The Lamb with Hot Pepper Sauce now comes with a gloppy sweet sauce. The Goat (lamb) Leg with Pepper and Salt used to be served as the entire lower leg with a tasty little dish of salt, pepper and other seasonings to dip it into, was now served as a plate of meat taken off the bone, mixed with sliced spicy peppers on a bed of greens with the now meatless bone served alongside. I could live with the price increase from the bargain $7.00 to the current $15.00, if it was close to as good as before, but it wasn't.

                            We also tried to order the Spicy Shredded Pork from the new menu but were told they were out of it. We went with the Spicy Shredded Beef instead. It was a big plate of dry shredded beef mixed with an almost equal amount of cilantro stems. Fortunately I like cilantro but it's not a dish I would probably order again.

                            The waitress was friendly and tried her best to overcome the language barrier, but when the check came and we were overcharged on the beef, it wasn't worth pointing it out. The 4 panchan dishes were a nice touch, but with the new chef and new prices, I won't be back. Too bad. It was good while it lasted.

                            1. re: el jefe

                              I went a few weeks ago after doing a food court crawl and they didn't yet have an English menu. I only had two dishes. After much language difficulty, I determined they were still serving the cilantro salad and ordered a plate of roast lamb meat. The cilantro salad was a shadow of its former self. Suddenly it had a Korean accent thanks to the addition of jap chae-like noodles. Lamb was OK and appropriately cuminy. I wish it had been crispier though.

                              It is really too bad. I think the new owners are trying recipes from the old A Fan Ti and not succeeding. Perhaps they should just go full-bore Korean.

                              Keep on smokin',
                              Joey Deckle

                              1. re: el jefe

                                It sounds like they gave you the menu from across the street. I think you might of been better off if you told the waitress you wanted the spicy lamb dish. I think it was the $18 dollar dish.

                                I had the shredded beef across the street and agree with you that it was not great. It was more like eating not very good beef jerky.

                                I still like the place, maybe I'm too used to paying Manhattan prices and I think this place is a bargain.

                                Sorry to hear you didn't have a good experience.

                                1. re: designerboy01

                                  They definitely gave us the menu from across the street. We went in there first (the new place across the street), looked at the menu, and decided to go back to the original A Fan Ti. So we knew what the menu looked like.

                                  I did try telling the waitress that I wanted the spicy lamb dish to no avail. And yes, these are now Manhattan prices. $55 for 3 dishes, incl tax, tip and one beer is much more than I'm used to spending in Flushing.

                                  I'd been to the original A Fan Ti about 20 times. This was totally different. But don't be sorry, there's plenty of other great destinations for me in Flushing.

                              2. re: Xiao Yang

                                Thanks for the update, Gary. Apparently Uyghur closed down two or three months ago. I guess we have to go to Scarborough now for an openly Uighur restaurant.

                            2. I went to the renovated A Fan Ti today and was pretty disappointed with the new version. It's completely different from the old one - hence the confusion on this post on whether it's Chinese-Korean or Xinjiang. It's now Chinese-Korean, and the food is prepared Chinese-Korean style - sweet and vinegary. They even brought out some Korean banchan when I arrived - which the old A Fan Ti never did. I ordered a few of the old A Fan Ti classic lamb dishes and salads but the lamb came drenched in some sweet sauce, the spicy wasn't very spicy at all (even though I asked for it spicy - I speak Mandarin) and the dishes were really greasy. The salads came with a Korean-style seasoning. Even the rice is different - stickier and as the OP said, with bits of crushed corn.

                              The place is a lot spiffier now, but I'm going to miss the old place, with the plastic flowers and the miniature waterfall by the window. I'm gonna have to check out the Xi-an store for my lamb cravings from now on.